By: Mike McDaniel
The Sandy Hook Elementary School attack has indeed changed America, but not the way anti-freedom advocates hoped (my three-part series on that attack is available here, here and here). After the abject failure of Mr. Obama’s post Newtown gun-control initiative, a new reality began to emerge, one I’ve been advocating for years: arming school staff. To be sure, this is a new movement and as such, it’s subject to confusion and half measures. After all, there is no truer expression of the truism that a camel is a horse designed by a committee than watching government at work . . .
“The Montpelier Exempted Village Schools Board of Education, in Ohio, has unanimously voted to let school custodians carry handguns, the Toledo Blade reports.
This will be the first school district in Ohio to have armed personnel, according to the Blade.
Four custodians will be trained to carry handguns around the county’s K-12 campus.
School board president Larry Martin told the Blade said the district began considering the measure six months ago but that the recent shooting in Newtown, Conn., gave the initiative a new sense of urgency.
‘Our main goal is to offer safety for our students while they are in the classrooms and in the building,’ Martin said. ‘We have to do something and this seems like the most logical, reasonable course to go with.”
An Indiana school board has voted 7-0 to allow school administrators and school board members who undergo specific training and uses specific equipment to carry firearms inside campus buildings. It’s a heck of a win for the data-driven approach to combating school violence:
“Administrators and school board members with the North White School Corporation can carry guns inside campus buildings beginning in July.
The North White Board of Trustees voted unanimously, 7-0, to approve the new policy on Monday. According to North White School Board President Shannon Mattix, the policy states guns may be carried inside campus buildings while school is in session and at school events.
Participants must pass two annual training sessions, one six hour basic firearm training session, and up to 40 hours of crisis management and defensive tactics training. Those carrying guns are required to go through a psychological evaluation at least once a year.
Other policy requirements include the firearm must be concealed, semi-automatic, held in a Level Two or Three holster, and carried not stored in the building.”
At least these school officials are thinking. Unfortunately, they don’t know what they don’t know. The Missouri Legislature is a bit more ambitious:
“The legislature in the Show Me state has loaded up the agenda with a new proposal which, if passed, would give potential evil-doers something to think about before they attempt an attack on a public school. If signed into law, the new bill would see some of the teachers in Missouri schools fully firearms trained and packing in the classroom. [skip]
School officials would receive the same firearm training as law enforcement officers. Additionally, weapons would have to be kept on the individual’s person at all times.”
While all should welcome the shift toward reality these initiatives represent, it’s time to introduce a practical model. That model must not be based on “data.” This is the current idiotic fad infecting American education. If this or that initiative is “research based,” it is presumed to be far superior to anything decades of experience and sharp intellects could produce, and producing data is an integral part of that “research.” Unfortunately, much of what passes for research in education suffers from every research fallacy one might imagine: small populations, experimenter bias, poor experimental design, and more. Much of it is driven by the “publish or perish” mandate, and more by plainly commercial interests. I don’t begrudge anyone the ability to make an honest dollar on their ideas and labor, but a very great deal of mediocre material is being kept afloat on the “researched based” life preserver.
In this particular debate, too many have no idea of the primary principle, or all too often, ignore it: the sole justification for armed school staff is to deter attacks on schools, and when an attack occurs, to minimize injury and loss of life. All others policies must flow from this.
It doesn’t take much imagination to realize that this is also the primary justification for the carrying of personal firearms, concealed or openly carried. Of course, this is a fundamental, natural right, which must apply wherever one happens to be. Are lives of less value on school property than on the sidewalk in front of the school? It is undeniably true that the odds are very good that one’s children will never be involved in an armed attack at their school, but it is also true that some will and there is nothing protecting anyone’s children from being on the wrong side of the odds, particularly if their school is a “gun-free” zone.
When school boards and legislatures become involved, even with the best of intentions, all manner of camels are created. Thus will four custodians be allowed to carry handguns. Four. In an entire K-12 school district. Thus will school board members be allowed to carried concealed handguns on school grounds and at school events. Not only that, they must carry a specific type of handgun in specific types of holsters, must undergo periodic psychological testing, and multiple, annual trainings.
Keeping the primary principle in mind, let’s explore a model policy and the reasons for each part of it.
Time and Distance: These are the two primary tactical issues involved. Taking Sandy Hook as our guide, we can be reasonably sure that once an attack starts, it will take no less than ten minutes for the police to arrive and enter a school. It took about 15 minutes at Sandy Hook, but the killer shot himself some five minutes earlier. How then, may attacks be deterred, and when deterrence fails, how may lives be saved?
The only possible policy is arming all willing school staff. This means teachers, principals, administrators, and any other adult working in the school. Obviously no one should be forced to be armed against their will. Natural selection should be allowed to take its course.
When an attack occurs, the numbers of wounded and dead will be limited only by how quickly armed good guys can respond and stop the attack. Armed police officers on campus are rare, and usually limited only to larger junior and senior high schools, and then, there are usually only single officers, people who can’t be everywhere at once and are often not on campus, particularly during extracurricular activities. Teachers and other staff members, on the other hand, are always present, including at every extracurricular activity.
The more limited the number of good guys, the higher the body count when an attack occurs. Four janitors in an entire school district? Even if an attacker knew of them, this would be most unlikely to deter an attack. Janitors are arguably even less likely to be in the right place when at attack occurs than armed teachers. Armed school board members? As any teacher knows, such people are rarely on campus during any school day. There is no deterrent effect there either. As with so much of what passes for effective public policy these days, it’s a feel-good measure.
Strength in Numbers: One of the primary reasons school attacks occur is they are victim disarmament zones where killers can be certain they’ll have adequate time to kill as many as they please and they’ll face no effective resistance. Single security guards or police officers increase the odds of early defeat only slightly. But a killer planning an attack facing an unknown number of defenders is facing a very different equation. The more armed good guys present, the greater the probability the attack will never take place, and if it does, that the attacker won’t succeed.
The Deterrence of Publicity: This is a vital facet of any defensive plan. Any school district authorizing armed staff must publicize that fact, repeatedly, while also withholding the names of those people, and also withholding how many are carrying on each campus. Any training should also be publicized. “Gun Free” zone signs must be replaced with prominent “Armed Staff Present At All Times” signs.
The value of concealed carry is that all criminals have to assume that anyone might be armed at any time. The same will apply to armed schools. Anyone considering an attack will never know how many armed defenders he’ll face, but will have to assume there will be many in every school. Obviously the more armed staff members in every school, the better.
Qualifications: One sure sign that the first principle is escaping legislators or school board members is the idea that anyone carrying a handgun in a school must be trained to the same level as a police officer. Basic police officers undergo a year of training, and frequent updates, because their jobs are far more complex than merely shooting. In fact, most officers will complete a career without shooting anyone. School staff need to know only a few, simple concepts: state law relating to the use of force, particularly deadly force, basic tactics and how to shoot straight.
School staff will not be law enforcement officers any more than any citizen with a concealed carry license. They will carry a handgun for one purpose: to stop an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death to themselves or others. Other than that, their concealed handgun will remain ever concealed.
There is a ready, capable pool: concealed carry license holders. Most citizens don’t realize that many police officers are not good shots; many citizens surpass them in shooting knowledge and ability and even in tactical knowledge and ability. This is not to suggest that more advanced training shouldn’t be offered—it should. However, one can delay or completely prevent staff members from carrying handguns with unnecessary or excessive training requirements. Millions of Americans carry concealed weapons every day without harming themselves or others. Teachers can manage the same.
Teachers already go through identical records checks including fingerprinting and photographs, and if they have a concealed carry license, in most states they’ve already had training and shot a qualification for score.
Guns and Gear: The less restrictive the better. Whatever is carried must be concealed under whatever clothing the person chooses to wear. Generally,.380 ACP to .45 ACP cartridges, revolvers or semiautos, and any holster that will allow concealment would work. Holsters with various security devices are unnecessary for concealed carry and many actively interfere with concealment and make weapon presentation unnecessarily slow and difficult, even dangerous.
A S&W Bodyguard .380 pistol and one spare magazine will fit in the space the same size as a common man’s wallet. Many other effective handguns will do the same, or in a space only slightly larger. Obviously, some people will be able to carry larger handguns than others. But the goal is to have a significant number of people present, people comfortable and competent with their handgun/holster choices. That’s fulfillment of the primary principle.
Laser sights? Of course. Lasers enable faster and more accurate shots on target. Indoors, visible laser range is extended over bright daylight conditions.
Methods: Everyone involved must carry their handgun, concealed, on their person at all times. What good is a gun locked in a desk or central armory when a teacher is confronted by an armed attacker in a hallway, the library, or at the bus pickup area, or at the football stadium? This kind of mindless control violates the primary principle and common sense.
Some suggest that armed teachers, in the event of an attack, should not seek out the shooter and stop him, but must lock their students in their classroom and hunker down, using their weapon only if the shooter breaks into their room. Again, this ignores the primary principle. What of unarmed teachers and their students? Should a killer have free reign to attack wherever he will, stopped only if he happens to choose a classroom with an armed teacher? What of students and teachers caught in a hallway?
Obviously, the more tightly large numbers of teachers and students are huddled in small spaces, the easier it is for shooters to kill large numbers when those small spaces are breached. If armed teachers are not actively seeking and shooting an attacker, they are ignoring the primary principle. In a gunfight the first thing one must do is effectively and accurately shoot and stop the attacker. All else is secondary and doesn’t matter until the sound of the final gunshot fades away and the smoke dissipates.
But how can those teachers abandon their students? They’re not. By locking them in a classroom–remember that’s the primary “safety” idea taught by many co-called “experts”–and proactively doing their best to stop the shooter(s), they’re not only protecting their small group of students, but all of the students and adults in the school.
Final Thoughts: In dealing with issues of public policy, it is all too easy to get caught up in irrelevant details. One doesn’t need to be told to turn on the light switch when entering a darkened classroom. In the same way, within rational parameters, teachers–college educated citizens–can choose effective handguns they can carry concealed every day. The odds are they will never need those handguns and not a single child or parent will ever know they were carrying one.
There will be those tempted to forecast all manner of doom, just as they did when state after state adopted must issue concealed carry laws. None of the horrors predicted by anti-freedom advocates came to pass, and in the few states that allow educators to carry concealed weapons, the same has been true.
That this model policy will cost little or nothing also recommends it. Concealed carry licensing costs, already bourn by the individual, will cost schools nothing at all. Schools need not spend a dollar to provide training, and it is already widely provided around the nation by the NRA and others. Surely, schools can, if they wish, import more specifically designed professional trainers and conduct shooting drills on their premises with AirSoft guns or similar devices for relatively little cost.
Millions of citizens already carry concealed weapons every day. Many of them successfully protect their own lives and the lives of others. Some of them are already teachers. Does crossing a school property line suddenly render them unqualified to do what they do everywhere lese?
As more and more states adopt policies that will actually deter and stop attackers rather than make legislators and school boards feel good, few things are more important than remembering the primary principle, and designing all policies to ensure that when an attack occurs–and it could occur anywhere, today–there are more than enough armed good guys to stop the bad guys.
Mike’s Home blog is Stately McDaniel Manor.